Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Soul Hunter By Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Unlike many Space Marine (SM) or Chaos Space Marine (CSM) novels, Soul Hunter doesn’t start with a bolter round to the face. Instead, Aaron Dembski-Bowden (ADB) eases us into the inner workings of the Night Lords, setting up characters and relationships before ploughing ahead with the action, which believe me does come! We are introduced to Talos, makeshift leader of the rag-tag ‘first claw’ of the 10th Company Night Lords Legion. Through Talos and his merry band of men we quickly learn of the dire situation the Night Lords are left in 10,000 years after the heresy. Without delving headfirst into it, The Night Lords are unique in that they do not worship Chaos (well the majority of Night Lords don’t), yet they wage war against the Imperium, putting them somewhere in the middle ground... a bit like the Soul Drinkers chapter.... but all chaosy and stuff. Problem is they are still using old crusty equipment from before the heresy, and without the blessing of chaos, all their gear is starting to fall apart. Yet worst of all, as their numbers dwindle in combat, they are not being replenished from their homeworld as they blew that up long ago. Sounds like a pretty scummy situation yeah? Well you’d be right. Ok, scene set? Let’s get back to it.

The whole back drop of this story revolves around the struggle for power between Talos or ‘The Prophet’ so called as he gets visions of the future and such, and his Captain of the 10th Company Vandred or ‘The Exalted’. Problem is, Vandred lost his mind a while back and has been basically taken over by a daemon of Tzeentch (well I suspect Tzeentch), who now controls Vandred’s warping body like a puppet. As the Night Lords despise the ruinous powers, Talos gets his grumpy on and decides to bring the company back to its former glory. Meanwhile Vandred is more than happy to maintain 10th Company’s high attrition rate as long as he looks good in front of Abaddon the Despoiler (who gets a cameo!). I won’t let you know the conclusion for this struggle for power, or even if it is resolved by the turn of the last page, but I will tell you that characters you initially consider the enemy do grow on you by the end of the book and you may find yourself changing your mind on who you want to ultimately win. Other notable mentions include an appearance by the Blood Angels, Night Lord Squads taking on a Warhound Titan and a tasty Dreadnaught vs Dreadnaught death match.

An interesting point I noticed early was the way the Night Lords interacted with each other during their conversations. After reading a wheelbarrow load of SM and CSM novels by Abbnet, McNeill and Counter etc, something that has been lacking is humour. Space Marines, particularly loyalists, are rather boring and wouldn’t make for good conversation over a few beers and some Nintendo Wii. ADB seems to have removed the pole from their asses and introduces an amount of sarcasm and wisecracks between his Night Lords 10th Company. I’m still not sold if this is better or worse than traditional hardcore SM/CSM conversation, but it does work very well in this book. Just remember not to compare styles too quickly to Abnett or McNeill when reading. ADB isn’t a clone of these guys and doesn’t try to be. It feels more like a breath of fresh air has come to SM conversation rather than someone trying to force a laugh. Being somewhat a sarcastic fellow myself, I related well to the witty banter.

Something I loved in the novel was the way it meshed with Lord of the Night by Simon Spurrier. Simon wrote his novel way back in 2005, and really laid down the Night Lords fluff as far as post heresy. He also created arguably one of the best Night Lord, if not CSM characters in Zso Sahaal. Rather than pretend this book never happened, ADB interwove his story with the fluff created in Lord of the Night. Sahaal even gets a mention/small cameo which is fantastic for all those hardcore Night Lord fans out there. (Silently raises hand.) I was so thrilled ADB went this way as I loved Lord of the Night and it really worked well to subtly pay homage to it in his own novel. I’d recommend reading Lord of the Night before or after Soul Hunter. Either way, they work really well together despite 2 different authors and 5 years difference.

Overall I really enjoyed the read. Interesting, dark and brutal yet tongue in cheek funny at times. It sets the scene for a Night Lords trilogy which is something many fans have been begging for. This was my first novel by ADB and I must say I’m impressed and looking forward to what he can do with his upcoming Horus Heresy novel.

High Point: First Claw vs a Warhound Titan. Further proving the proverb: “The bigger they are the harder they fall”. Or should it be “The bigger they are, the bigger guns they have to kill you with!”
Low point: The whole scene with Abaddon. He seemed far too chatty and polite for my liking. Considering the way Talos speaks to him and the amount of power Abaddon wields in the 41st millennium, I thought Talos was lucky to get away with his head still attached after their first exchange of words. I always imagined Abaddon as a no question, no quarter, no mercy Warmaster of Chaos. Not the way he was portrayed in Soul Hunter.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fallen Angels By Mike Lee

Fallen Angels is book eleven in the Horus Heresy series, and after turning a few pages I instantly realised it had been some time since I read the Horus Heresy book Decent of Angels (number six in the series) which is the book that Fallen Angels follows on from, and before you ask. Yes, you will have to have read Decent of Angels before you can read Fallen Angels. I began to feel nervous that I wouldn’t remember all the characters involved, or their individual emotions and personalities. Luckily for me, Mike Lee does a really good job of catching the reader back to where Decent left off, catching us back up with Zahariel, Nemiel and all the Dark Angles gang after the events of Sarosh and the fallout from that.

What I really loved about this book, was it seems Mike Lee has actually taken some criticism of Mitchel Scanlon’s slow paced and at times tedious to read Decent of Angels and really stepped it up a gear, both in terms of relating events to the Heresy and setting a cracking pace. What I think was the best factor about this book was its dual story lines. I loved the way they leap frogged each other throughout the book, almost to the stage of having two completely different stories but intertwined around a common Space Marine chapter and timeline. I often found i’d be more interested in one storyline more than the other, and would finish a chapter only to be faced with events on another planet between me, and finding out what happens next! Jumping between Caliban and Diamat was quite fun and Lee does a good job of leaving you hanging at the end of every chapter, but just when one story gets a bit bogged down, the other steps up and makes you keep smashing those chapters like a power fist through an ice cream cake.

I really enjoyed the development of extra characters, it was finally good to see the Lion in on the talking action and Luther as well, although I think he could have darkened Luther up a bit more myself, not an emo's eyeshadow dark, just a little darker. The battles were up to the standard we expect from Heresy novels, so no qualms there either. Well written, bloody and brutal, just as 40K should be!

The best bit for me was the way the book finished! The best ending/cliff-hanger I’ve read in a book for a while. I just loved it. I actually think I said the words ‘oh you’re kidding me!’ out aloud as I read the last few lines. Such a good way to finish a book, I can’t wait for the third one in this Heresy’s Dark Angels story arch now, but I guess I’ll just have to wait like the rest of us. I would have liked a bit more ‘Daemon’ action from the events on Caliban, I think Lee probably could have done more with that, but i guess I’m just nit picking.

Overall I have to say Lee did an excellent job. Fun, fast and gripping. It would have been hard to take over someone else’s story (Mitchel Scanlon wrote Decent of Angels) let alone take over from a story that copped a lot of criticism about being boring, dull and unrelated to the Heresy story line. But well done Mike Lee, I loved it.

High point: The last page... finally! A twist that isn’t obvious and you don’t see coming! And honestly left me shocked.
Low point: The fact that both story arches never meet in this book


Storm of Iron By Graham McNeill

First and foremost, this novel is essentially a siege novel. The entire story centres around the siege of Hydra Cordatus by the Iron Warriors chaos space marine legion and the defence by the local imperial forces of their 'supposed' impregnable fortress. What I loved throughout the book is McNeill's details on the siege techniques of the Iron Warriors, at stages I found myself looking up actual siege techniques used by invading forces (thank you Wikipedia) as McNeill’s tactics seems very accurate and make a lot of sense! You end up thinking "Hey that’s quite smart" or "Yeah, I’d do the same thing". It should be just the thing you need next time you consider laying siege to your next door neighbours home.

The great thing about this particular book is the way it shares itself between the Chaos Space marines and the Imperial forces equally. You end up liking characters from both sides, and McNeill does a great job of making it very hard for you to decide who you want to win, I found myself constantly shifting between favourites as the battle progressed! Also, you never quite know who’s going to win as McNeill makes sure that just as one side gains an advantage, the other seems to strike back.

McNeill introduces several new Iron Warrior characters that you instantly seem to like (but dislike at the same time as they are filthy chaos scum remember) and the ensuring inter squabbling between all of them keeps the action within the Iron Warriors camp as hot as the bloody trenches of the Hydra Cordatus Citadel! I loved seeing the battle field and war tactics through the eyes of a Chaos Marine instead of a loyalist Space marine for a change, their hatred of Imperials and utter loathe of human life does make for a nice (but brutal) change of pace over the sometimes ‘goody two shoes’ way a loyalist Space Marine sometimes operates.

For those of you not in the know, you may like to read Mechanicum from the Horus Heresy series before this (It’s almost a standalone so you don’t need to read the Heresy books first if you don’t want) as some of the titan action from that book crosses over here with some notable 'building size' appearances.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book. It kept me on the edge of my seat (well chair) and was a great introduction to the mighty Iron Warriors, in particular it introduces the Iron Warriors character Honsou. Who in this readers eyes, is probably the best bad ass baddie ive ever read from the Black Library. Plenty of surprises and twists! A must read in my humble opinion.

Also, It fits in perfectly between book two of the Ultramarine series Warriors of Ultramar and book three Dead sky, Black sun, both books are also by McNeill. In fact, the events straight after Storm of Iron is where Dead Sky, Black Sun takes off. So if you want to slot this book in here during your Ultramarines Saga reading then it’d be very worthwhile as characters from Storm of Iron are reintroduced within the first two pages of Dead Sky, Black Sun.

High Point: Guardsman Hawke evening up the battle with a well timed cyclonic torpedo! take that Forrix you douchebag!
Low Point: The ease at which some of the Iron Warriors seem to kill other Space Marines (not saying which legion, but if you know who the Iron Warriors bitter rivals are you can figure it out)... but seriously, aren’t they supposed to be somewhat evenly matched? hhmmm...


Mechanicum By Graham McNeill

Mechanicum is book nine of the Horus Heresy series of books by the Black Library. Before we get into it, I must explain that although the Horus Heresy books are ideally read in sequence. Mechanicum can be read as a standalone. As long as the reader has some knowledge of the Heresy and its timeline, it can be enjoyed without reading the previous eight books. However, to maximise your reading experience. I recommend reading them in sequence. Now, let us begin.

I initially found this book very hard to get into, in retrospect I suppose this came from a distinct link I had made with space marines and the inner workings of the Astartes over the course of the last nine or so Horus Heresy novels. Mechanicum is a vastly different book, it throws you head first into the inner workings and politics of the Mechanicum of Mars, with little regard for your unfamiliarity with them. One of the hard things I found to pick up was the terminology used by the Mechanicum, from the name and ranks of members (adepts, forge masters, magos and so on) to the very locations within the story area, I found myself referring back to the map page at the front of the book quite often throughout the book, not to mention the cast list until I got the hang of the main characters and where they fit into the Mechanicum hierarchy. A great way to ease yourself into this book is to not only read the Heresy books in sequence as i mentioned earlier. But also read the short story The Kaban Project by Graham McNeill from The Horus Heresy: Collected Visions Artbook. Not only was this McNeill's first venture into the Mechanicum of Mars, the story also overlaps this book with some characters even making the cross over to Mechanicum.

The start of the book introduces and develops characters quickly, it’s just they are somewhat... ‘unfamiliar’ and hard to digest compared to what we are all used to with the space marines. But if you stick with it through the first few chapters (you could even say the first Act) the story really begins to develop and characters being to jump off the page more. The turning point for me was the first time the titan legion ‘Legio Tempestus’ walk the surface of Mars. Once the Titan Legion’s enter the storyline it all starts getting exciting and the story really begins to accelerate. McNeil does a great job of describing the world through the eyes of a titan princeps (something i was again unfamiliar with), and his description of the ensuring battles are even better. Without wreaking the story for you, the politics and ensuring civil war between the Mechanicum and newly formed ‘Dark Mechanicum’ really suck you in as you watch the lines get drawn in the red sands of Mars, and Forge Masters and Titan Legion’s take their sides for the upcoming climax that would change the surface of Mars forever.

The climax I have to say left me a bit wanting, well not the final confrontation, more the lack of a rounded off ending after it. I checked my book several time to make sure the final chapter had not fallen out on to the floor. But alas, it was never there. Yes, there could have been that last chapter to really finish out the book and answer you last dying questions (such as what happened after pretty much everyone gets pwnd). But if someone asked me to write it, I wouldn’t even attempt to, as I don’t really know how I would want it to end myself... that’s why I guess McNeil left it there as well. The Mechanicum are a mysterious bunch, so I suppose so should be the ending to their book. well, that and i guess there would be no perspective to write it from seeing 90% of the characters are dead. Thats right, when i said pretty much everyone gets pwnd... i meant it!

Overall, I loved it. The beginning was a bit of a slog, but once you get into it it’s quite hard to put down. And it was a nice change of pace to the space marine story we've had so far.

High point: Legio Tempestus Vs Legio Mortis Deathmatch
Low point: The Emperor's grand secret... kind a lame


Friday, April 16, 2010

DSM begins!

well well well... as this is my first blog and my first post within my first blog, i guess i better explain myself. Ryan is my name and reading 40k fiction is my game. over the last year i have developed and unhealthy addiction to Black Library Fiction, specifically 40k. i have in the past completed a number of book reviews on my fav 40k forum 'Heresy Online', which ill transfer over to here. what i intend to do with this blog is to chronicle and review my journey though the BL's treasure trove of 40k books and audio books. as i complete each book, ill write up an indepth review (and before you whinge ill try and be as spoiler free as i can!) so give you guys an insight into whats good... and whats not in the 40k universe. all opinions will be my own so if you dont like it... deal with it.

where will DSM go from here? i dont know. for now lets just get this party started with a few reviews of titles ive read a while ago.

Death to the false god!